At the risk of repeating a previous post, I am offering this old memory from back in my middle school English teacher days. It was later in the academic year, maybe March or April. I know because that was when we covered the debate unit. The unit was half research and half dramatic tricks on stage, and one more half that involved working in a group. (I know, impossibly improper fraction; it was not math class.)
Some kids were quite adept at faking it on stage with clever gimmicks. One such unforgettable trick totally intimidated the opposing team. Team A came onto stage dressed up, holding their opening statements for the occasion. That wasn’t the gimmick. Once the other team came out, Team A lugged in a stack of paper that might have contained 2,000 pages– 1,997 of which were blank. Two boys, probably politicians by now, dropped the bundle on their table with an audible thud. It reverberated like Gideon’s trumpet in the Midianites’ camp. Team B bought the trick and visibly shrank into their seats. Yep, they were deceived and intimidated by 1,997 blank sheets of paper delivered with a certain level of swagger. Before one verbal shot was even fired, they surrendered.
It’s not so much what is real that disturbs men and children; it’s what they interpret reality to mean, i.e., their beliefs or expectations of available “evidence”. Scared, angry folks often jump to defensive conclusions. Just recall the Red Scare of the 1950’s and early 60’s. Communists, supposedly, were everywhere– at universities, the State Department, Hollywood, labor unions, etc. All you had to do was ask a scared or angry person like Joe McCarthy or Dick Nixon. The House Un-American Activities Committee gave the accusers great power and fame even if a lot of their accusations were rubbish. Sound familiar?
It was not until television journalist Edward R. Murrow called out their nonsense that the tide turned away from their witch hunt. Even then, Joe McCarthy accused Murrow of being a communist or fellow traveler without any supporting evidence. Murrow’s words resonate today with relevance…
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
In our current times it looks like we’ve deserted freedom at home and abroad in the name of some nativist greed grab. Insert Trumpublican talking points here… the Wall, welfare, voter fraud, socialism, fake news, the press is the enemy of the people, the system is rigged, etc.
Not ironically, there is a direct line from rabid Joe McCarthy to perverse Roy Cohn to Tricky Richard Nixon to Jolly Roger Stone to Rotten Rupert Murdoch to, yep, you guessed it, Delirious Donald J. Trump. Why, there’s Don and Roy together in 1984.
Cohn, who had been an aide to Senator Joe McCarthy, in the nineteen-fifties, was a political fixer and lawyer who represented New York power brokers, from the Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to the mob boss Carlo Gambino. Trump was one of his favorite clients; before Cohn’s death, of aids-related complications, in 1986, the two men talked up to five times a day and partied together at Studio 54 and other night clubs. “Roy was brutal, but he was a very loyal guy,” Trump told the writer Tim O’Brien, in 2005. “He brutalized for you.” [The New Yorker, April 14, 2017]
Cohn’s frequent phone pals included Nancy Reagan and the former C.I.A. director William Casey, who “called Roy almost daily during [Reagan’s] 1st election.” Cohn also enlisted his friend and the owner of the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch, to help bring down Geraldine Ferraro’s campaign: “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped or item put in, or story exploited, i.e Ferraro—and her family, Roy called Murdoch.” Cohn killed stories that would hurt his friends. When he found out that “60 Minutes” was about to do a negative story about Reagan’s potential Vice-President, Senator Paul Laxalt, of Nevada, “Roy called the producer of 60 Minutes and asked him to take it off the schedule.” The longtime “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman, who didn’t talk to Cohn himself, confirms that the story never aired amid pressure from lawyers, including Cohn. [The New Yorker]
A truly charming fellow.
What’s amazing is that the same Cohn recipe still works in 2019.
1. Create an atmosphere of raw, irrational fear.
2. Fertilize it.
3. Bring to a boil on state news (Fox).
4. Serve piping hot so it burns the mouths of consumers.
5. And then focus that fear and pain on the target–> liberals, foreigners, gays, Blacks, Muslims, Jews. Pick one or a combo. Tucker Carlson can demonstrate for you on any given night.
Corruption and abuse of power is not news. However, a straight line of their succession from the 1950’s to now is a bit unusual. Unlike a Trumpian conspiracy theory, these players are all real overlapping cast members who have indisputably operated outside and above the law for decades. No magic elixir is needed to tie these con men together. Just read the researched articles, though intuitively you probably already knew the outcome. Why? Because you just know a vulture when you meet one. They smell of death.
Oh yes, back to the debates. If you can distract your audience with fear and anger, as DJT did in the 2016 campaign, you can turn the demonizer beam on anyone and burn them up for your gain. In the top ten targets of Trump’s rage we see a pattern that befits any good dictator…